Venice Biennale: Australia

Michelle Perkins
The Encyclopedic Palace is the title of the 55th Venice Biennale. This international art exhibition reflects the vision of director, Massimiliano Gioni as he recalls the 1955 Biennale also titled the Encyclopedic Palace created by Marino Auriti. As the title suggests the theme for this year’s Venice Biennale is based on the encyclopedia. The encyclopedia, a large series of text, is typically used as a source of knowledge that looks back to the past and is regularly updated thus creating a home for future knowledge. Upon viewing the exhibition of over 4000 artifacts from over 80 countries in the Giardini and the Arsenale exhibition halls, traditional and non-traditional art forms and artist are present.


One can clearly see the presence of books and knowledge woven throughout in the works in this exhibition through the Australian pavilion’s showcasing of artist Simryn Gill. Gills exhibition titled Here Art Grows on Trees reflects the actual use of books. Gill shows us the written words highlighted and extracted from their original source and adhered to the wall. As the viewer engages with the work rhythm and repetition come to mind and you walk through a long flock of swarming words. Books and words become transformed in this installation, which is enhanced by the obsessive nature of the creative process. As the exhibition continues we are lead to a quiet corner with two chairs and what looks to be a book lover’s little stash that has migrated, thus creating its own collection. The viewer is invited to sit and touch the collection of paperbacks. Upon doing so one can see that each book has a number of words removed, individually cutout to create a beautiful swarm of words and process.